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Thursday, January 25, 2007

You Can Do It!

I had the privilege of speaking with a Tehilla Pilot Trip group the other day, and the following is the talk I delivered. Comments always welcome!




You know, I often have the privilege of speaking to groups of people that are somewhere along the process of making Aliyah. Sometimes, I speak to those who are already here. Sometimes, to those who are still over there.

And sometimes, I have the incredible honor of speaking to a group filled with people who are knee-deep in the process itself. These people are completed and totally obsessed with movers … schools … communities …employment.

These people – you – are in the middle of an unbelievable experience.

And it should be. After all, you are in the process of ending the Exile for your families, which is an incredible concept.

But it’s so overwhelming. You’re leaving your families. You’re leaving your communities. You have to learn a new language, get a new job, find new friends, make sure your kids will be alright.

It’s a lot, to say the least.

So I want to tell you something …

You can do it.

I promise.

You can.

Let me tell you a little story. This past Motzei Shabbat, my wife Gilla and I took our kids out for a little celebration. We had just surpassed two years here in Israel. Yup, that’s right. We’ve been here two years. So we wanted to take our kids out to celebrate.

We took them to arguably the most American restaurant in Yerushalayim. We took them to Café Rimon.

You want American French fries? You go to Rimon. Onion Rings? Rimon.

You want Ben & Jerry’s ice cream? There is only one place to go … Café Rimon.

Over the course of two years here in Israel, I have missed a bunch of things about America. I miss my family, a lot. I miss my rabbi. I miss Rabbi Frand’s shiur every Thursday night.

But there are two other things I really miss:

1. I miss the excitement of reading in the paper that “pitchers and catcher report today.”
2. I miss American ice cream.

And let’s just say that these last two are not necessarily in that order. I mean, I’ve searched high and low for a banana split with American ice cream since we arrived three Decembers ago.

So when we walked into Café Rimon two nights ago, I was a man on a mission. And I got my banana split.

But I digress …

So we took five of our kids (we left the baby with a sitter) out to Café Rimon, and we told them they could each order whatever they wanted to celebrate two years in Israel.

And then, after the food arrived, we asked each of the kids what they like most about living in Israel.

Two of them wimped out and said, “Everything.”

One of them, our two year old, said, “ice cream,” but would have said, “going to the bathroom” if she had been going to the bathroom when we had asked the question.

And one of them said, “the playgrounds.”

Oh, the fifth? Well, that’s an interesting story, because he’s the same one who absolutely refused to speak Hebrew for the first 8 months we lived here. Refused. Like when after 4 months I asked him, “Mah atah rotzeh l’echol?” and he answered, “I don’t speak Hebrew, Abba.”

Don’t worry. There’s a happy ending. Not only did he start speaking Hebrew finally, but because of the 8-month rejection, he has become, for a 7-year old, an incredible reader of English books. He’s read like 200 books or something.

So I repeat … you can do it.

Anyway, what do “everything,” “ice cream” and “the playgrounds” have in common?

After all, there is absolutely nothing unusual, Israeli or remarkable about any of them.

And that’s the point. That’s what they have in common.

And that, to me, is the biggest indication that we are doing okay with our Aliyah.

By the way, Gilla and I answered the question as well. I won’t share what she said, but I will tell you what I said.

I said that it’s incredible to see our kids growing up in a place where they can feel absolutely comfortable being Jewish. Their tzitzis can hang out. Their peyos can fly around in the wind. The girls can wear “Shabbos gowns” and feel 100% comfortable.

And as they grow up, and they each find their niche, they will be able to feel comfortable here.

Because we’re the majority here.

You know, I said something to the last group, and I’ll say it again today. Israel is so perfect for the Jews, that even those who don’t like being Jewish can feel comfortable here.

Wanna be a secular Jew in America because you are embarrassed about being Jewish? Guess what? You’ll still be seen as a Jew. But here? Move to Tel Aviv, and no one will ever look at you like you are the Jewish one. It’s incredible.

Anyway, my kids love everything. They love playgrounds. They love living here.

So don’t worry. You can do it.

You just have to work at it. And you have to know that certain things are going to be different here.

You want a job? Don’t worry. You’ll get a job. It may not be the perfect job for you, and you may have to pound the pavement a bit, but you’ll get a job.

You want a good school for your kids? Don’t worry. You’ll have a school for your kids. It won’t be like TA in Baltimore was for us. But our kids are learning. And we pay attention to their education. So, with HaShem’s help, they’ll turn out fine.

You want a nice community? Don’t worry. You’ll find the right community. It may not be the first one you find. You may have to test out a few places. But you’ll find a fine community.

It actually reminds me of a book I once read. Part of it goes like this. Maybe you’ve heard it …
_____________________________


Wherever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don' t
Because, sometimes, you won't.

You can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on. You'll be left in a Lurch.
You'll come down from the Lurch with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,that you'll be in a Slump.

And when you're in a Slump,you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.

You can get so confused that you'll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space,
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place...

...for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,
or a plane to go or the mail to come,
or the rain to go or the phone to ring,
or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.

Everyone is just waiting.
_____________________________

Now let me ask you something: How many times do you think Dr. Seuss tried his hand at Aliyah? He ever visit Israel? Was he even Jewish?

No.

Then how did he know what it’s like to get an Israeli driver’s license? How did he know that Israeli winters are sometimes filled with weeks of rain at a time?

Because life has these kinds of ups and downs no matter where you are.

And that’s why I say, you can do it.

No matter whether you have no kids or six kids. Old kids or young kids. FFB or BT. Fluent in Hebrew or clueless in Hebrew.

You can do it.

There is just one more thing I want to mention before I let you go.

When I said at the beginning that this is an unbelievable experience, I meant it. And that doesn’t mean it’s going to be all wonderful. And it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy.

It’s unbelievable. It’s incredible. It’s beyond description.

It’s so worth everything you will be going through.

Just think … Moshe Rabbeinu worked so hard to lead the Jewish people out of Mitzrayim. We read about it this week. And he was supposed to lead us into Eretz Yisrael.

And we all know the tragedy of how Moshe’s story ends. He’s standing over there, looking over here.

Moshe Rabbeinu. He was a good Jew. But not good enough, not fortunate enough to be here.

But you are.

I’ll end with a quick story. The first time I ever came to Israel, I was 26 years old. I came here with my wife and our newborn son (He’s nine now.). We were having a grand old time when we heard a series of loud booms. And we later found out that we had missed a bombing by 15 minutes. We had been right at the spot where it had happened 15 minutes before.

Now, you gotta understand, my wife had wanted to make Aliyah for a few years already, after having gone to Yeshiva here. But after the bombing, I told Gilla, “There is no way we are moving here.”

And so now, here I am, 9 years later … living in Israel, hosting the Aliyah Revolution and speaking to a Tehilla group about making the big move.

So trust me …

You can do it.

1 Comments:

  • At 2:12 AM, Blogger Geómetra said…

    First I saw a note in Arutz7 and I was a bit curious. Then I decided to look for you on the web and I found this blog. Now I've been absolutely touched by your article.

    I've been thinking about it, quite a long time. Even though, I'm not sure of what I want. You have also remarked an important issue: I don't think Israeliens would want me, and they (you) don't absolutely need me.

    But after reading you, now I'm sure that I should communicate with someone like you.

    Would you mind of taking a few time to answer me by email?


    I've realized that, somehow, I need to go there, to stand there, to see it all and to take it all and to breath it all.

    Nevertheless I also should prevent you that, broadly speaking, I could be a limit case. But, G-d, how many times I've dreamed of the land of my ancestors.

     

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